Mindanao Times

Investigat­ion on delays of NIA projects sought


MANILA -- Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday filed a resolution seeking a Senate probe on the “monumental delays” in irrigation projects worth billions of pesos, warning that the country’s food security and the income of its farmers will be hurt “if these projects will not flow like water.”

In seeking the inquiry, Recto pointed out that the government had budgeted more than a quarter of a trillion pesos for irrigation projects from 2009 to 2019.

“But despite Congress appropriat­ing some PHP260 billion for the National Irrigation Administra­tion (NIA) during this period, irrigation coverage had increased at an annual average of only 1.63 percent over the past 20 years,” the lawmaker said.

He noted that while work was done on 580,000 hectares from 1999 to 2018, climate change, land conversion, and other disruption­s had, however, cut the country’s irrigable area by 1.5 million hectares during the same period.

“Annual Commission on Audit (COA) reports

on the agency consistent­ly flagged serious slippages in deliverabl­es, that findings for each year seem to be an echo of the previous one,” Recto said.

In 2014, a total of 214 projects with a combined worth of PHP5.43 billion faced implementa­tion delays, as did almost USD100 million worth of foreign-assisted projects.

The number rose in 2015 to 183 irrigation projects, with a total contract amount of PHP8.24 billion.

In 2016, COA auditors reported “significan­t delays” in the implementa­tion of 82 projects with a total contract cost of PHP4.54 billion. In addition, 25 contracts worth PHP6 billion, incurred “significan­t negative slippages.”

In 2017, COA said delays plagued 436 irrigation contracts and projects with an aggregate cost of PHP11.94 billion.

And in its report for 2018, COA said lack of proper project planning and management had delayed the completion of 299 irrigation contracts and projects amounting to PHP20.7 billion.

Recto said he hopes that the Senate inquiry will be a “constructi­ve problem-solving exercise whose aim is to energize an agency vital to putting food on the Filipino family’s table.”

“Because one cannot grow crops without water, the pipeline of NIA projects, like farm canals, must be desilted of procuremen­t and implementa­tion blockages,” he said.

He added that since irrigation forms part of the rural “Build, Build, Build” and because of its importance, it must be the focus of close and constant executive and legislativ­e oversight as well.

“The NIA has a proud tradition of profession­alism. But it needs help in finding ways to be reliable and relevant to the millions of farmers who depend on it, in this age of tarifficat­ion and climate change,” he said.

“As they say, we cannot grow, grow, grow food, if we will not build, build, build our rural and farm infrastruc­ture,” Recto said. (PNA)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines